Bethlehem Lutheran was founded over a century
ago in 1874. It was the oldest church in the East Side community
and founded for the German-Americans. Frederick A. Eggers, leader
of the movements to establish a church, was born in Hanover, Germany in
1821 and came to the United States in 1850. Frederick Eggers went
out looking for a minister who could preach to the community and be a guiding
influence in their lives. He came upon Pastor J. P. Beyer.
Then the Robertsdale mission began. Robertsdale, Indiana, just southeast
of Chicago was where the services for the German-born of both states were
held. People got there no matter how bad the weather or roads were
or how difficult travel was. Later, Pastor Beyer got help for running
the congregation from Pastor Doederlein, a pastor from Immanuel Church
in South Chicago. On May 29, 1871, Robertsdale's had its first Confirmation.
During its first official meeting on December 27, 1874, Pastor Duborg
chose the name Bethlehem for the new church. He was another minister
from Immanuel and helped served Robertsdale Mission and also organized
the congregation. Bethlehem also means "House of Bread".
Both Mr. Charles Colehour and Mr. Douglas Taylor offered to donate the
land to the church but Colehour's offer was accepted because Taylor's land
was located on the other side of the tracks. Colehour's donated land
was located on 103rd Street and Avenue H.
Bethlehem Lutheran Second Church Built in 1891
A very important decision
was made on May 2, 1875, and the decision was to join the Lutheran Church-Missouri
Synod and to establish a Christian school. Bethlehem was originally
without a pastor or teacher. It agreed to rent out its space to a
public school. It found its pastor on August 3, 1879. The church's
first bell weighed twenty-five hundred pounds and did not fit in the building's
belfry. A bell tower was constructed and the bell was dedicated in
1886 with these inscribed words, "Glory to God in the Highest". A
new church building was constructed in the early 1890's because the number
of members were increasing and they started to feel cramped. On Holy
Thursday, 1918, the church caught fire. The cause of the fire was
never determined though it later was said to be the boiler. The members
of the church then started to rebuild a new church immediately and adding
a school to it. The original school no longer stands.
Second Church After Maundy Thursday Fire 1918
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Chicago's East Side Community.